When Liverpool fielded a team of youngsters against Aston Villa in their League Cup quarter final on Tuesday it certainly raised a few eyebrows.
But the decision only confirmed how much the Club World Cup means to a team which has won pretty much everything else and is now determined to regarded as the best team on the planet.
Some believed Liverpool should have played their best team at Villa Park and left the irrelevance of the Club World Cup to its youth and reserves – but Jürgen Klopp knows the importance of this trophy, despite it’s much maligned past.
There are not too many gaps on the honours board at Anfield, but the Club World Cup is one, something which their ever-passionate fan base is well aware of, especially seeing as Manchester United have twice been crowned kings of the world.
Along with Liverpool’s bitter rivals some of Europe’s finest have also had the honour of being named the best team on earth, including: the brilliant 1989 Milan side with Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard and Bercelona’s brillaint class of ’09
And it’s not as though Liverpool haven’t had their chances having been European Cup specialists over the past four decades.
In the World Club Championship – the precursor to this tournament – they were beaten by Flamengo in 1981, by Independiente in 1984 and by Sao Paulo in 2005, a losing record which any team would want to end, let alone won with the history and tradition of Liverpool.
But things have changed since then, when the tournament was seen as little more than a showpiece game between the European Champions and the South American champions in the world football equivalent of the Community Shield.
The tournament has now been opened up to all continual winners making it a truly global event and since its reincarnation in 2000 has continued to generate interest among clubs on every continent, even if it’s still regarded as something of a mid-season distraction in England.
Everything about the Club World Cup suggests it will continue to grow in prestige and, judging by its roll call of blue chip sponsors, value, too, with the winner of this year’s event pocketing around £4 million in prize money.
By 2021 it will be a 24-team tournament taking place across three weeks in China and there will be eight teams from Europe, made up of Champions League and Europa League winners, with a maximum of two per country.
So, just as the European Cup evolved from a knock-out tournament to a European league in everything but name, and the World Cup will soon grow to include 48 nations, FIFA’s plans for the Club World Cup indicate it will one day be among the most significant titles in football.
And as the competition’s importance increases, past players are beginning to realise what they missed out on with former Reds’ skipper Jamie Carragher describing the club’s defeat in 2005 as, “one of the biggest regrets of his career.”
The tournament also offers Liverpool the chance to do something which no other side has ever done before and that’s win five trophies in a season.
They have collected one trophy this campaign by beating Chelsea on penalties to win the UEFA Super Cup, and could double that if they win the Club World Cup this week.
Meanwhile, they are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League and still have the Champions League and the FA Cup to go for as they chase an unprecedented quintet.
Of course, if they get to the final they will face Flamengo, the side who beat them 3-0 in Tokyo the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final, which was seen at the time by many as a meaningless defeat.
However, in the 38 years since, Liverpool have won six English top-flight titles and been champions of Europe three times; but the honour of being world champions has so far eluded them, until now?
How to watch the Club World Cup
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